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AAP crisis deepens as Manish Sisodia rejects Khaira & Co’s demand

Sisodia, who is in-charge of party affairs in Punjab, categorically ruled out any rethink and asked the MLAs not to go ahead with the ‘volunteers’ convention’, widely seen as a “show of strength” of the Khaira group, to be held in Bathinda on August 2.

punjab Updated: Jul 30, 2018 10:16 IST
Navneet Sharma
Navneet Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
AAP crisis,Aam Aadmi Party,punjab
Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia (HT File )

The crisis in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s Punjab unit deepened on Sunday after Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia rejected nine party MLAs’ demand to take back the decision to remove Bholath legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira as the leader of opposition (LoP) in the Vidhan Sabha.

The defiant Punjab legislators, led by Khaira, in whose place Dirba MLA Harpal Singh Cheema has been made the new LoP, pressed for the latter’s immediate removal, calling the procedure adopted by the central leadership “undemocratic and unacceptable”.

Sisodia, who is in-charge of party affairs in Punjab, categorically ruled out any rethink and asked the MLAs not to go ahead with the ‘volunteers’ convention’, widely seen as a “show of strength” of the Khaira group, to be held in Bathinda on August 2.

However, the MLAs told him that they would go ahead with the public meeting as planned, culminating the meeting, which was held to resolve the serious political deadlock, without any headway. Both sides were adamant and did not budge from their positions during the hour-long meeting held at the Delhi deputy CM’s official residence, said a party legislators .

The MLAs were called to Delhi for a discussion with AAP national convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, but he did not attend, leaving it to his deputy to try and end the crisis.

“We told Sisodia that the undemocratic manner in which they made the change without consulting the MLAs was not acceptable and the decision must be reversed. He said the party has consciously appointed a Dalit leader as LoP, but was told that the deputy leader of our legislature party and two whips were from the community,” Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu told HT after the late night meeting.

Mansa legislator Nazar Singh Manshahia said their Dalit card will not work. “In case they wanted to accommodate Dalit leaders, they had three seats in the Rajya Sabha. In Punjab, they could have appointed Cheema or any other SC leader to the post of the state president that continues to be vacant,” he said, expressing dissatisfaction with the way the meeting progressed.

Besides Khaira, 11 MLAs, eight of whom had publicly backed him at a press conference here on Friday, attended the meeting. They includedSandhu, Manshahia, Jagdev Singh Kamalu (MLA from Maur), Pirmal Singh (Bhadaur), Jagtar Singh Hissowal (Raikot), Master Baldev Singh (Jaitu), Rupinder Kaur Ruby (Bathinda Rural) and Jai Kishan Rori (Garshankar), Manjit Singh Bilaspur (Nihal Singh Wala), Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer (Barnala) and Kulwant Singh Pandori (Mehal Kalan). Delhi leaders Durgesh Pathak, who was earlier co-in-charge of party affairs in Punjab, and former Rajouri Garden MLA Jarnail Singh were also present.

Dakkha MLA HS Phoolka also showed up, but left early.

The failure to end the impasse is a big setback for the party ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in a state where it had made a breathtaking start in the previous parliamentary polls by winning four seats. And, it has been rocked by upheavals since.

The situation appears set to escalate further later this week with the party warning its leaders against attending the convention. The Khaira group is holding meetings in different assembly constituencies to drum up support, besides making appeals to all party MLAs, office-bearers and other leaders to reach Bathinda on Thursday.

First Published: Jul 30, 2018 10:15 IST